Ryan and K-9 Kraken
My name is Ryan. I fell in love with and married a Minnesota girl 15 years ago, and we have a 4-year-old daughter who keeps us on our toes.
Shortly after my wife and I got married, I began my career as a prison guard with the Nebraska Department of Corrections. I began my career feeling like I was prepared for anything that came my way, and I was excited to have the opportunity to make a difference in my community and in the lives of others. However, I quickly discovered that no amount of training could have prepared me for the many horrors I would experience while working there - from people threatening me and my wife’s safety and wellbeing to being subjected to traumatic situations that still haunt me to this day. I ended up leaving that job forever changed.
After leaving my job as a prison guard, my wife and those closest to me noticed extreme changes in my mood. I was suddenly hypervigilant, irritable, constantly anxious, and severely depressed. But, I kept thinking that it wasn’t anything I couldn’t snap myself out of.
In 2012, my wife and I moved back to Minnesota from Nebraska, and I was hopeful that a new start and new surroundings were just what I needed to help me move forward. However, by 2013, I had reached a point in my life where night terrors made it impossible to sleep, depression made it difficult to leave my home, and extreme panic attacks prevented me from being able to get through a meal out or a trip to the store. I finally had to admit that I couldn’t continue living like that, and I sought out help.
I started seeing a team of mental health professionals and got an official diagnosis of PTSD, depression, and anxiety. It was my psychiatrist who suggested to me that I might benefit from a service animal. And, in August 2013, I was introduced to my first service dog, Pepsi.
Pepsi truly helped to give me my life back. He gave me the reassurance and confidence I needed to return to all of the things I had loved before mental health issues took over my life. Knowing that he had my back allowed me to be able to enjoy going out into the world again.
In February 2022, Pepsi’s health took a very unexpected turn for the worst. My wife and I noticed that he suddenly seemed tired all the time, he wasn’t able to keep food down, and he just wasn’t himself. Our vet confirmed our worst fears: Cancer had taken over several of his organs, and a tumor had burst and caused irreversible damage. He was in pain, and we had to make the most loving choice that we could to put him down and not make him suffer any longer. Just like that - my best friend and loyal companion was gone.
Since Pepsi’s death, my mental health has been steadily declining again. I have an excellent care team who has done all they can with adjusting medication and offering counseling services. But, without that companion to watch my back, alert me to oncoming panic attacks, and calm me during night terrors, even the simplest things like going grocery shopping and enjoying a meal out with my family feel scary and overwhelming again.
My doctor and I both agree that I would greatly benefit from the assistance of another service dog. However, the rising costs of childcare, housing, and more have made it impossible for my wife and I to take on the financial responsibility of paying for another service dog who is trained to help me in the ways that I need. That is why I have sought out help from Soldiers-6, and I am honored to be considered to be a recipient of one of your service dogs.